A commenter (Commentor? Commentator? One of these things), BykerSink, said this:
There are only two types of music. Good music and bad music.
The genre is not important.
It’s very glib to say genre doesn’t matter, of course. It’s one of those “I love everyone” sort of statements that makes the speaker sound very open-minded and above it all. Hell, I say stuff like that all the time. But the truth is, as truth usually is, much more complicated.
Labels are tools. And like any tool, misused, they harm or hurt. The hammer drives the nail, but also hurts the finger.
So sticking with musical genre for a moment; I rarely, very rarely, say to myself “I want music”. I say “I want this genre music. I’m in the mood, just now, for some jazz. And not just jazz, but cool jazz, or maybe bossa nova, or maybe I want some swing right now. And I’ll go look for that. or I’ll want heavy metal or funk. Because the genre implies a feel and mood. And I’m seeking music to fit a mood, sometimes.
This is why a record store will group by style. Because I don’t want to look through country/western today, I want Classical.
Obviously, it’s useful. I don’t put my shorts away with my flannel shirts. I don’t put my pans with my silverware. I don’t put my rat poison with my toothpaste.
But there’s the other side. The dark side of the force, if you will.
Since people tend to listen by genre, listeners, buyers, will say “I don’t like that kind of music.” They reject based on type. And we all do it. People who claim they don’t are lying to themselves. “Yeah, I love all music, but not those boy bands”. “I like all kinds of music other than reggae”. Because there’s always a bias. Always. It’s just a question of how the bias is laid out. BykerSink says there are two kinds, good and bad. So it’s simply binary, BykerSink don’t like a genre called bad music.
People cut themselves off from a lot of music with genres, sure. And bands suffer; when I was a local music scene person, I was surrounded by bands that didn’t fit a genre. My favorite, Dot3, were kind of funk but kind of afro-tribal and kind of prog-rock and kind of punk/pop. And yes, they were good, incredibly good. But promoters didn’t know what the hell to do with them. Another band that came out of the ashes after Dot3 broke up, Tongue Tied, used to get lumped in with hard rock bands because they were dark and heavy, but they were not at all a hard rock band. They had trouble getting to the right audiences because they’d been mis-labeled.
Labels are useful. All the more so with a modern collection of music on Mp3; I can’t find the right stuff from my collection without a genre label, there’s too much to wade through unless I’m seeking a particular song or album or artist. But they screw me up because some artists are so badly mis-labled (rock bands in ‘alternative‘? Punk bands in ‘hard rock‘? Let’s just call them all ‘rock‘ ok?). Worse for me is that ‘Disco‘ and ‘Soul‘ and ‘R&B‘ and ‘Funk‘ and ‘hip-hop‘ all tend to get crammed together in a blob; so when I’m trying to find funk collections, more often than not what I get are collections that are mostly disco or hip-hop, and not true 70′s funk at all. Not that I have an issue with those genres, but KC and the Sunshine Band != Funkadelic.
So BykerSink, I say – yeah, there are genres called good music and bad music, but for us to have a conversation about music, we need something a little more agreed upon. So the labels, the genres, are important, even if they are also a frustrating impediment to enjoyment in some cases.